Hearts forced to put pre-season plans on hold

Robbie Neilson's Hearts start their Europa League campaign on June 30
Robbie Neilson's Hearts start their Europa League campaign on June 30
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EUROPEAN commitments are forcing Hearts to put pre-season plans on hold, head coach Robbie Neilson revealed today.

The club are unable to arrange proper friendlies due to their involvement in the Europa League qualifiers, which start at the end of the month.

Neilson would much prefer an extended run in Europe over the prospect of not being involved at that level. He explained that means organising summer matches becomes impossible.

Hearts enter the Europa League first qualifying round on June 30, with the second leg the following week on July 7. The second qualifying round takes place on July 14 and 21, and the third on July 28 and August 4. The play-off round for the group stage is then due on August 18 and 25.

The possibility of a hectic schedule means Neilson and his coaching staff cannot plan any further than the first qualifying round for now. Hearts report for pre-season training next Wednesday, June 15, and will spend a week training in St Andrews from June 19 to prepare for their Europa League adventure.

“Because of the European game, it’s quite difficult organising pre-season,” said Neilson. “We have a couple of closed-door games later this month but then we’ll just be taking games as they come along. It all depends how we do in Europe.

“We can’t really commit to many games in case we have European ties on a Thursday night. As pre-season progresses, we’ll assess where we are. We’ve had loads of requests from teams wanting to play us. As the pre-season progresses, we’ll decide whether it’s a big game we go for or a slightly lesser one. It will depend what squad the other team has got.”